Between 2017 to 2019, a total of 6,988 reports of sexual assault were made in Singapore. According to The Straits Times, the number of reported rape cases has jumped 75 per cent in the past 5 years, due to greater awareness and willingness to report it.
It is important to know that both men and women can be victims of sexual crimes, and that a vast majority of victims know their perpetrator. Although the law may vary from country to country, the following are what Singapore law defines as sexual crimes.
Note: Other behaviours not covered below – like unwanted flirting,, stalking, or sexually explicit messages – do not constitute sexual crimes but may fall under the realm of sexual harassment
Rape is legally defined in section 375 of the Penal Code as when a man uses his penis to penetrate the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person without their consent. The act of stealthing – secret removal of a condom during sex when the other party only agreed to sex with a condom – can also be considered non-consensual penetration.
In the event that the victim is a minor below the age of 14, the perpetrator is guilty of statutory rape regardless of whether consent had been given.
Due to its legal definition, only men can be charged with rape. However, women who are guilty of similar acts of non-consensual sex may be charged under section 376 of the Penal Code instead, which covers sexual assault involving penetration, the penalty of which is the same as rape – imprisonment of up to 20 years, liable to additional fines or caning.
Sexting with minors
Sexting, or sending sexually explicit messages to another party including nude photos or descriptions of sexual acts, is illegal if done with a minor under the age of 16, regardless of consent.
Laws regarding sexting with minors include:
- Section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA), which states that any person who “procures or attempts to procure the commission of any obscene or indecent act by any child or young person” is guilty of an offence; and
- Section 376E of the Penal Code, which covers sexual grooming of a minor under 16.
Molestation, also referred to as outrage of modesty, involves the touching of another person without their consent. Section 354 of the Penal Code does not explicitly define what “modesty” means, but examples include grabbing or lightly tapping someone’s buttocks, massaging of the groin area, or touching a woman’s thighs and breasts without consent
The victim’s gender does not matter, and both men and women can be found guilty of molestation or outrage of modesty.
Covered under section 377BB of the Penal Code, voyeurism is defined as the observing or recording of another person’s private act without their knowledge or consent. Examples include upskirt photos, recording someone taking a shower without their knowledge, using equipment like binoculars or a camera to enable you to observe someone undergoing a private act, recording in image or video of a person’s private parts without the knowledge or consent, or installing of equipment that would allow you to observe a victim in a private act.
Voyeurism is a sexual offence under Singapore law that does not take into account the gender of the victim, which means that both men and women can be found guilty of voyeurism.
I have been a victim of sexual crime… Help!
Do not be afraid to speak up and seek help if you have been a victim of a sexual crime. First and foremost, report the incident to the police. More information is available from the Singapore Police Force on how to go about reporting a sexual crime. Women may seek additional support from AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre.
Gather any evidence if possible, including material evidence from the scene of the crime, any text messages from the perpetrator, or other records of their illegal behaviour.
Even if what happened to you does not fall neatly under the above categories, but you felt you were coerced, intimidated, or cheated into conducting a sexual act, you can still seek legal recourse. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.
I have been accused of a sexual crime… But I’m innocent!
If you have been falsely accused of molestation, keep a cool head and gather any evidence in your defence, like witnesses or an alibi. Although seemingly counterintuitive, you should also not attempt to contact and engage with your accuser, and hold your tongue, especially on social media, to avoid unconsciously incriminating yourself.
When fighting for your innocence, it is important that you engage a good criminal lawyer in Singapore who can best protect your rights and give you the best possible chance of acquittal should the case go to court. At Tembusu Law, our highly experienced team of criminal defence lawyers in Singapore will protect and safeguard your needs.